OwlSpark partners with UH for 7th year of summer business accelerator program

Rice University’s OwlSpark and the University of Houston’s RED Labs will launch their annual joint startup accelerator program on May 16.

Startup teams from Rice and the University of Houston will spend the next 12 weeks refining their business models and building their companies in preparation for the Bayou Startup Showcase Aug. 1.

The startups, whose offerings range from medical devices to consumer apps and enterprise software, will attend the 12-week program at Station Houston, an accelerator hub for startup technology companies, corporate innovation and entrepreneurship.

OwlSpark’s cohort will host seven startup teams with 15 founders during the 12-week program. RED Labs’ cohort will consist of nine teams and 22 founders.

“Our partnership with RED Labs is a uniquely successful collaboration that has demonstrated how working together benefits an entire ecosystem,” said Kerri Smith, managing director of OwlSpark and associate managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. “Our founders learn and grow in positive, lasting and measurable ways. Collaboration with partners like the University of Houston, Station Houston and others help our entrepreneurs become better positioned to pursue their visions.”

OwlSpark has organized six annual cohorts, trained 47 startup teams and helped 125 founders enhance their entrepreneurial and leadership skills. This year’s cohort includes a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, recent alumni, students from other academic institutions and professionals across various industries.

The partnership with RED Labs enables the startups from each institution to succeed faster, according to program organizers. The program is designed to build a community for Houston’s next generation of entrepreneurs and give them the resources to achieve their dreams in Houston and beyond, they said.

The entrepreneurs will have access to Station Houston’s network of 200 startups, 400 members, 130 mentors and dozens of corporate partners, as well as resources they need to make the transition from idea to startup and from college student to CEO.

“We are thrilled the University of Houston and Rice University have chosen to host their entrepreneurial programs at Station in Houston’s innovation district,” said Gabriella Rowe, CEO of Station Houston. “By partnering, we have the opportunity to convene even more of the city’s talent in one place, and I can’t wait to see how we’ll all work together to drive our programs forward.”

OwlSpark and RED Labs both launched in 2012. Since 2014 the two programs have worked together closely with a common curriculum, mentors and a demo day at the Bayou Startup Showcase. In summer 2017, for example, they leased space in downtown Houston’s 1600 Smith building to host a program similar to this year’s that gave teams with firsthand experience launching a tech startup.

OwlSpark is a leading Rice resource for helping entrepreneurs launch startups and experience startup life. It provides hypertargeted training and mentoring. It also introduces entrepreneurs to disciplined strategies that help accelerate startup innovation. OwlSpark partners with universities and leading community organizations, enabling the entrepreneurial aspirations of students, faculty, staff and recent alumni. To date, OwlSpark startups have raised over $19 million in funding.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.